Shelterbelt Varieties for Alberta - Bur Oak

Subscribe to our free E-Newsletter, "Agri-News" (formerly RTW This Week)Agri-News
This Week
  Plant characteristics | Fall colour | Site preference | Hardiness | Uses | Problems | Insects | Pruning

Scientific Name: Quercus macrocarpa Michx.
Plant Characteristics

Bur oak is a slow-growing, tall deciduous tree with a mature height of 10 to 14 m (30 to 45 ft) and a spread of 6 m (20 ft). It has an annual growth rate of 5 to 30 cm (2 to 12 in.), and a useful life of 100+ years. It is native to the eastern prairies.

Bark - The tree bark is light brown to grey, deeply furrowed and scaly. The small branches have corky ridges.

Fruit - The fruit (seed), a small acorn, is probably the most readily recognized feature. A cup, which has a fringe-like border, encloses half of the acorn.

Leaves - The leaves are roundly lobed and have fine white hairs underneath.

Propagated by seed.

Fall Colour

Leaves yellow-brown - not significant since leaves drop so early.

Its leaves are red-brown in fall.

Site Preference

Bur oak prefers a rich, loam type soil, but survives in poor, rocky sites. It can withstand some shade, and can survive drought conditions.


Hardy - will survive under extreme climatic conditions.


Farmstead shelterbelts, boulevard tree specimen planting. In shelterbelt situations bur oak should be planted 2 to 4 m (5 to 12 ft) between trees in the row and 5 to 8 m (17 to 26 ft) between rows. Since growth is slow this tree should be used in combination with a row of willow or poplar 7 to 8 m (20 to 25 ft) away from the oak. Do not use oak for field windbreak plantings.


Difficult to transplant because of its characteristic taproot. Slow to very slow growing.


Leaf gall wasps


Rarely to remove broken, diseased or crossing branches, or a second leader.

Shelterbelts Varieties for Alberta provides information on a number of other trees and shrubs than may be suitable for shelterbelts.

Visit our website directory for the Reforestation Woodlot Listings.

Share via
For more information about the content of this document, contact Toso Bozic.
This document is maintained by Brenda McLellan.
This information published to the web on May 4, 2001.
Last Reviewed/Revised on December 18, 2017.